Knowledge and Judgement



The episode in Glendower’s castle in Henry IV Part I gives a fresh interest to the midde of the play by introducing a vividly eccentric new character. It also introduces a different kind of comedy from that of the tavern scenes, created by the incompatibility of Glendower and Hotspur. Their temperamental differences are obvious from the moment when the leaders sit down to their conference: Hotspur ridicules Glendower’s claim that his birth was accompanied by supernatural portents, and when Glendower reveals that he was once a poet, Hotspur derides the whole art of poetry. For all his chivalric idealism, Hotspur’s contempt is that of a rationalist for a romantic and, during Glendower’s absence from the conference table, he confides to Mortimer how much the Welshman infuriates him:

O, he is as tedious As a tired horse, a railing wife; Worse than a smoky house; I had rather live With cheese and garlic in a windmill ,far, Than feed on cates and have him talk to me In any summer house in Christendom, (III i 159–64)

Mortimer, however, has a quite different opinion of his father-in-law and he tactfully protests that Glendower is learned, courageous, ‘wondrous affable‘ and, moreover, has the highest regard for Hotspur. The two opinions are not inconsistent but, since Glendower appears only in this one scene, we have no means of knowing which estimate is the more just, though one suspects Hotspur of prejudice: it is the penalty he pays for having such a vital personality of his own.


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Notes and References

  1. 1.
    Milton, Tetrachordon, in Works (Columbia edition) vol. IV (New York, 1931) p. 92.Google Scholar
  2. 5.
    See the article on Florio by Sidney Lee in the Dictionary of National Biography, vol. XIX (London, 1889) pp. 336–9; Elizabeth Robbins Hooker, ‘The Relation of Shakespeare to Montaigne’, PMLA, XVII (1902) 349.Google Scholar
  3. 11.
    Bacon, ‘Of Truth’, in Essays or Counsels, Civil and Moral (1597); Works, vol. VI, pp. 377–8.Google Scholar
  4. 21.
    Milton, The Reason of Church Government, in Works (Columbia edition) vol. III (New York, 1931) p. 186; and MacCaffrey, Paradise Lost as Myth, p. 35.Google Scholar

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© John Wilders 1978

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